16 million people visit London's oldest fruit and veg market every year. But how many take full advantage of it? Here are seven things you might not have done.
1. Try the world's hottest chili
Stop by specialist seasoning shop Spice Mountain, to fulfil any chef's wildest dreams. The emporium offers every kind of dried herb and spice imaginable including 20 different types of salt and chilli in 45 varieties, from whole dried anchos to chipotle powder. Better yet, while you're stocking up on Hawaiian red alaea salt and dill weed, you can take part in the age old challenge of '(wo)man against stomach' as Spice Mountain offers sporting folk the chance to sample the world's hottest chilli — the Carolina Reaper. Ask at the counter if you think you're hard enough. If that isn't enough of a challenge you can wash your mouth out with Caroline Reaper flavoured beer from nearby Utobeer.
2. Make your own bread
Lots of sellers on the market and adjacent shops offer talks, books, samples and tips on their area of foodie expertise. From Gastrotours to Tea tastings there is something for all mouths and budgets. One of the best is Bread Ahead Bakery School who teach classes on how to make everything vaguely loaf-shaped including sourdough, doughnuts and gluten free bread — as well as pastries and cakes. Classes are often themed by cuisine including Italian biscotti, Nordic rye bread and great British baking.
3. Visit Bridget Jones's house
In 2001, when Bridget Jones's Diary came out, the idea that a junior PR in a publishing company could live in a one bedroom flat next to Borough Market was faintly idealised. In 2016 it's beyond ludicrous. The market itself features prominently in several scenes including Bridget's desultory walk home dressed as a playboy bunny after being dumped by Daniel Cleaver, and her shopping trip before the disastrous blue soup dinner with Mark Darcy. There's also The Globe (a real boozer below the fictional flat) and Bedales, the venue used for the Greek restaurant in *that* fight scene. Daniel Cleaver's swanky apartment is a stone's throw away on Clink Street.
4. Go to cheese heaven
OK, you may well have done this one just by stepping through the door. However did you know there are over 20 resident cheesemongers on the market? They love nothing better than answering questions and waxing lyrical about the techniques of their trade. Among the best are Borough Cheese Company who specialise in gigantic wheels of French comte matured in a 19th century fort and L'Ubriaco who offer 'drunk cheese' made of pasteurised cows milk cheese, matured for 18 months and (you guessed it) soaked in wine for the last six. Cheesemakers are often present at the market's many events including their themed special late night openings before Christmas — a perfect chance to build that post-turkey cheeseboard.
5. Go for a haircut
It's easy to miss Hobbs Barbers as it's tucked away in a corner of Three Crown Square underneath the railway bridge. Gents looking for a no-nosense, straight back and sides, in cosy wood-panelled surroundings, won't be disappointed. No booking necessary for cuts, beard trims and old school shaves with a cut-throat razor.
6. Ring the Market Bell
There has been a market on the south side of London Bridge since 1014 AD, as the road we now know as Borough High Street was a vital artery joining London to the ports in the south. By the 16th century the authorities had a constant battle on their hands to keep the chaotic crowds of trader stalls and livestock from making the road impassable. New rules were put in place in 1757 including one that stated:
The clerk of the Market do ring or cause to be rung the Market bell every morning at nine of the clock and that notice be given to the hall porters that they do not set out their stalls or stands till the bell be done ringing.
Although it has long since ceased to function as a means of crowd control, a bell still hangs at the Middle Road entrance. The current Bell was cast by the Whitechapel Foundry (who also cast Big Ben) and allows the market to continue the tradition on special occasions. You have to be invited to ring the bell, so very few visitors will have had the privilege. Prince Charles did it when he signalled the re-opening of the market in 2013.
7. Learn how to cook from experts
One look at Borough Market is enough to tell even the most casual passer through that this place is a vast repository of culinary flair, knowledge and achievement. Many people will only ever have popped by to pick up their lunch between meetings but on Thursdays and Fridays free demos from 12.30pm-2pm are a great excuse to hang around. Resident chefs take over the demo kitchen for 90 minutes using fresh market produce and offering inspiration, tips, tastings and free recipes to take away. Your packed lunch just got a lot more exciting.